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Honoré Daumier (1808 - 1879)
Honoré Daumier was born in Marseilles into the family of a glazier, who was fond of poetry and even wrote his own verses. In 1814, the family moved to Paris. Daumier started to study art in 1822 under the renowned artist and archaeologist Alexandre Lenoir. The financial situation forced Daumier to earn his living as a delivery boy, while at his spare time he sketched at the Louvre. About 1828, he learned the technique of lithography and began to work for small publishing houses. After the revolution of 1830 in the atmosphere of freedom of speech in France the role of mass media grew and the art of political satire flourished. In 1830, Daumier started to work for Philipon’s Caricature and Le Charivari. Satire against the king Louis-Phillip “Gargantua” (1831) brought him wide popularity, especially when he was sentenced for 6-months in prison because of it.
A biting political cartoonist, Daumier contributed satirical drawings to various Paris weeklies for most of his career. Nearly all of Daumier’s cartoons were done with lithography. History of France and Europe, social and political relations, and statesmen, find a place in his works. According to his contemporaries he had an amazing memory and capability to capture the essence of the model, its plastics, mimics, gestures. His series of sculpture portraits of French deputies is amazing.
At the end of the 1840s, Daumier’s interests shifted to painting, though he continued to issue many lithographs. His paintings however differ from his graphic works not only by techniques and artistic media but also by different subjects. Though his lithographic works embrace many themes, it’s impossible to find among them something like The Burden or a series of The Laundress. There is no irony in his paintings, in them he is a romantic, fully sympathizing with his characters. other examples. A Wagon of Third Class, The Third-Class Carriage, The Beggars and Wandering Saltimbanques.
In 1848, Daumier participated in a governmental competition on the topic of Republic; his work Republic is in D’Orsay now. Other paintings by Daumier have subjects more characteristic of Romanticism. The numerous canvases and drawings of the adventures of Don Quixote, from Cervantes’ XVI novel, show the fascination this theme had for him.
Daumier worked much, he left more than 4000 works of graphics, 300 paintings, 800 drawings, 1000 woodcuts and sculptures. But despite this titanic work he could not make ends meet all his life. He died in the house that had been presented to him by Corot. Corot secretly bought Daumier a house, and wrote to him, “My old comrade – I have a little house for which I had no use at Valmondois near the Isle-Adam. It struck me that I could offer it to you and, as I think it is a good idea, I have registered it in your name at the notary’s. It is not for you that I do this, it is merely to annoy your landlord”. It was a simple gesture, and it gave Daumier a few serene and tranquil years.
Daumier, “one of the few Romantic artists who did not shrink from reality”, remained in his day practically unknown as a painter.” During his lifetime he found no public for his work. Only a few friends encouraged him and, a year before his death, arranged his first solo exhibition. Thus his pictures had little impact during his lifetime.
Daumier’s paintings are closer to the art of the 20th century than to his own: they are sketch-like and very expressive. Only in 1901, at Daumier’s posthumous exhibition the world discovered this name for itself.
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